How to Crush Your Demo Day Presentation

Does your startup need a reality check? Whether you’re struggling to attract the right customers or come up with a better way to process invoices, an accelerator program can mean the difference between blindly pursuing your startup and moving forward with purpose.

Accelerators provide seed investment, mentorship, and the connections necessary for success. By the end of the program, companies that go through our accelerator for instance have found more value in the experience than the $50,000 we invested in them.

One of our companies had begun building a platform to rate freelancers to improve the success rate of hiring part-time workers online. But after hearing about the staffing nightmares enterprises faced, it pivoted to serve this market. As a result, it gained more than 15 partnerships before the program ended. Without this dose of reality, the company likely would have continued targeting its previous market.

The final step of many accelerators is demo day. This is where you set the stage for the future of your business and what it will become. You speak to enterprise executives, potential customers, investors, and the general public — who already have an interest in the startups presenting. So this is a huge opportunity to gain feedback and attract interest.

Here’s how to crush your accelerator demo day presentation from the moment you walk into the room:

1. Leverage the power of emotion. You need to create an emotional attachment to what you’re doing to hook the audience from the start.

To keep all eyes on you, fill your presentation deck with supporting images, and use your words — not distracting text — to give an overview of your company and its value. Explain who is on your team, what your product does, and what problems it solves for clients.

Like any presentation, make sure the emotional bond isn’t marred by distracting “ums” or filler words, which can quickly dissolve an investor’s confidence in your professionalism.

2. Visualize your value. Break it down. Some people in the audience may know everything about your industry, but you also need to instill confidence in attendees who lack context.

A good rule is to prepare your talking points like you’re speaking to a 7th-grade audience. Explain how you bring value to your industry and the world, backing up your claims with a competitive analysis and market potential. While some of these numbers are rather arbitrary, investors will want to know you’ve done your market research.

3. Share your secret sauce. Investors want to see technology that differentiates you or makes your company run differently. People are looking for a protected patent or at least something to show that you’re ahead of the curve.

Most tech investors can think of a competitor you haven’t heard much about the moment you get started, so separate your startup from the pack by highlighting its competitive advantage.

4. Present an acquisition assessment. Share potential companies for acquisition and a realistic timeline. Acquisition is a highly visible way for investors to get a sense for ROI, so keying in on this instant return can really help garner attention and buy-in.

5. Give them a hook. Your goal is to get investors to come speak with you after the presentation, so you need to give them a reason to interact with you.

For example, we recently worked with a company that highlighted technology at its booth, promising potential investors that it would instantly convert their companies’ websites to apps if they stopped by.

Crush demo day, and you’ll be left with not only a list of potential investors and customers, but also the emotional value of feeling confident in your product or service. This affirmation plays a big part in building team confidence, especially as your company moves into the pitching and fundraising stages.

Your pitch is the culmination of everything you learn through an accelerator. Show investors and potential customers you have the know-how to take your startup all the way, and they’ll be fighting for a chance to get in on the action.

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Written by:
Brian Dixon is the program director for the No. 6 nationally ranked accelerator, St. Louis-based Capitol Innovators. Reach out to Brian on Twitter.
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